Matlock arrived at Melbourne for the first league match of the season on Saturday in buoyant mood but at the final whistle were left wondering how they lost the game - the hosts winning 20-14.
In the first half they enjoyed almost complete control over both possession and territory but, having found themselves on the wrong end of some interpretations of the law, just before half-time fortunes swung in favour of the home side.
From the kick off the first 20 minutes was a fairly tight affair but on 22 minutes Matlock finally found some reward for their early dominance. Some 40 yards out the ball was passed to Dan Hooton who chipped over the advancing defenders and regathered the ball before finding James Young in support who in turn found Luke Howard to race away and touch down for a great try. Tom Morton added the extras.
Moments later another score looked certain when following a well worked backs move, Howard sliced through the defence but his pass failed to find Powell who had a clear run to the line.
Matlock didn’t have to wait long for another score. Pressing on the edge of the Melbourne 22, a bobbling ball was gathered up by Hooton and he burst through a gap in the centre before handing off one tackler and pirouetting past another to touch down for a fine individual score on his 250th appearance. Morton again added the extras to give Matlock a much deserved 14-0 lead.
Just before half-time Matlock’s fortunes were dealt a blow when Hooton was very unlucky to be shown a yellow card for an alleged high tackle. From a subsequent line-out, Melbourne’s well executed catch and drive saw them halve the deficit.
The events preceding half-time clearly affected the Matlock mindset and despite their efforts the team struggled to rediscover their first half rhythm and dominance.
Melbourne clawed their way back, aided by some poor decision making and with only four minutes remaining Matlock found themselves 20-14 down following a dubious try where the winger clearly stepped over the dead ball line before touching down, and two penalty kicks.
Knowing only a converted try would do Matlock surged forward in one final attempt culminating in a line out close to the Melbourne line. A good catch and drive followed with the three-quarters joining in the maul which was heading over the Melbourne line for what seemed a certain score.
Much to the frustration of the visitors the referee didn’t call a deliberate collapse or award the expected penalty try, or indeed a scrum for ‘held-up over the try line’, instead he awarded the home side a scrum from which they kicked the ball off the field and the referee blew the final whistle.
Matlock host old rivals Newark on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.